Over this past weekend, we had the opportunity to be part of something just a little different in the gaming event pantheon. To best explain it, try to recall the largest game night you’ve ever held. Chances are you had maybe, 8, 12, 15 people for it? I think our record is about a baker’s dozen once for an epic game of Balderdash. Those events are noteworthy, because when you have that many people all enjoying a game together, the atmosphere is fun and entertaining, if not occasionally challenging. All those people are there for the same purpose: to enjoy playing a game with the people they’re surrounded by. It’s a great feeling.
Now take that memory and multiply it by 60.
Welcome to Unity Games: the 700-person game day.
Unity Games isn’t a convention in the traditional sense. It doesn’t have any vendors or named sponsorship, and the modest admission rates merely offset the cost of renting the space. With Unity, its purpose – its sole purpose – is to get people together to play games. And it’s been that way since its inception. The Unity Games group was created as a resource between several different local gaming factions in Eastern Massachusetts, and it was eventually decided to pool the collective groups together for an event. Initially they did this twice a year, but as attendance has progressively grown, they opted for one annual day instead. This was probably a wise move: each year since its inception in 2000 has seen the rolls jump significantly, and their most recent tally puts the number well over 700 people.
The organizers take pride on it being an open and inviting place, and we can attest that this is accurate. You don’t even have to be a gaming expert to participate: Unity dedicates a portion of the room for volunteers to teach others how to play new games (such as Ginkgopolis), or your more classic Gateway Games (such as Carcassonne).
What’s more, the entire (and we do mean entire) perimeter of the room was lined with tables of games. Whether in tote bags, backpacks, cardboard boxes, or just what their arms could carry with them, many people deposited their own copies of games onto table segments and designated them with a name sheet. This allows anyone there to be able to walk up and borrow that game with the understanding that it be returned to the same spot when you’re finished with it.
I know – it seemed strange at first to us too that so many people were willing to blindly let their property be borrowed by complete strangers.
In the end, the only strange part was how well it worked. It was a temporary gaming library on a massive scale, and in addition to providing a cross-section of what gamers are excited about playing, it added to that sense of inclusiveness. It appears that Unity Games has been aptly named.
In addition to us getting to partake in a series of previously unplayed games in our own right, we got to walk around and look at a lot of the others being played there. The variety was remarkable. Some games there were so new they aren’t even out in mass quantities yet, and some were uncommon and sought-after older games. Whatever your particular style of game is, chances are some group here was playing it at some point during the day.
Here’s a snapshot of just some of the ones we saw being played!
Once beginning as the game Huang Di, the long-awaited and much-anticipated relaunch, Island Fortress is almost here. Appease the colonial governor by using your workers to create the most efficient fort on the island.
Many, many, folks were controlling their vast intergalactic empire in the hit game, Eclipse.
Put your Gnomes, Elves, and Dwarves to work to build up the city in Belfort.
Defend (or conquer) the land of Middle-Earth more efficiently in War of the Ring’s 2nd Edition printing. (Additional figures shown are fan-made pieces)
The Zombie Apocalypse is here. Grab your friends, some survival gear, and reinforce the bunker to survive the end of the world with Zpocalypse, a new zombie co-op game due out in Q1 2013.
Use the natural resources around you to hunt, survive, and launch the beginning of civilization in Stone Age.
What happens when you’re out of the Stone Age and your advances cause you to run into other civilizations? Why, you get a Clash of Cultures!
Do you like dealing with military strategy, political intrigue, and religious upheaval, but just wish it could be done in a different time period? Well you’re in luck! Dive into the tumultuous era of the Elizabethan world in Virgin Queen.
Control one of several giant monsters looking to defeat all the other giant monsters so that you can declare yourself the biggest, baddest of them all in the quick game, King of Tokyo.
It’s time to spread out into space and settle some new colonies. Are you up for the challenge in Alien Frontiers?
Master the resources of your workers in the ever-changing clockwork board Tzolk’in.
Use all of your strategic planning in Terra Mystica, a game that rewards your skills in resource management and area building instead of sheer luck.
And so many more!
Unity Games proved to be a wonderful microcosm of the gaming community as a whole. As Phil Alberg, organizer of the Unity Games Teaching Area said, “99.9% of gamers are good people and enjoy sharing the gaming experience with others.”
We wholly agree, and given the atmosphere of this year’s event, we’ll be looking forward to the next Unity Games. This was gaming at its purest, and we’re happy we got to be a part of it.
Have you experienced similar gatherings in your areas? We’d love to hear about them in our forums!